This article was first published in TCW on November 17, 2017, as Kathy Gyngell recalls here.
Like many ConWom readers, I suspect, I spent the early dawn hours of Friday June 24, 2016, ecstatic that the British people had ignored the pro-EU hectoring of the massed ranks of the New Establishment and their globalist backers, and had voted to leave the EU. But the euphoria didn’t last very long.
Such was the furious reaction of the Remainer-Elites and their compliant media courtiers to this unexpected defeat that, before the day was out, I’d become convinced that while we had won the Referendum battle, we certainly hadn’t yet won the war, and that the celebrations of some, on the assumption that all that was needed to achieve Brexit had been done, were hubristic and perilously premature.
I even tweeted as much, as this selection from my Twitter timeline between early that Friday morning and late the same evening shows (with apologies for the profanities).
Sadly, this is precisely what happened after the Referendum. The Vote Leave campaign wound down, with its principal Conservative politicians diving into the internecine strife within their party from which its Remainers emerged predominant. Its successful CEO, Matthew Elliott, is now with the Legatum Institute.
On the Leave-EU side of the Brexit movement, a complacent Nigel Farage resigned as leader of UKIP to forge a new career in the media as the man who won the Brexit that hasn’t happened yet. UKIP has collapsed into virtual irrelevance after two credible replacements were seen off by its residual Farageistes. It is now led by a nonentity and is near-invisible.
A couple of pro-Brexit campaign groups persist, but they are mainly active on social media only. In effect, the loose coalition which delivered that historic vote by 17.4million people to retrieve their sovereign nation-state popular democracy from supranational unaccountable-elite technocracy has all but dissolved.
It’s my contention that this has been a catastrophic error: that developments, not only since the Referendum generally, but more recently specifically, are placing Brexit in ever-greater jeopardy; and that the Brexit movement needs to be reconstituted and go back on to a war footing, to fight for what the British people voted for, and even contest if need be the second referendum which I believe to be the Unreconciled Remainers’ objective.
Although the Leave coalition subsided, the Remain campaign never ceased. Readers will recall the ugly post-Referendum orgy of anger and hatred directed by ‘liberal’ Remainers and their cheerleaders at Leave voters, the constant attempts by the academic and judicial elite to delegitimise the Referendum result, and the sometimes fanatical anti-democratic polemic of, to name only two egregious but typical examples, the philosopher A C Grayling and Labour MP David Lammy, such as this only two days after Referendum Day.
It intensified once again during the Gina Miller litigation designed to facilitate a majority pro-Remain House of Commons vetoing the Government’s Article 50 notification. It lessened somewhat after Parliament voted by 494 votes to 122 to authorise the triggering of Article 50 by March 31, and matters reached a sort of uneasy equilibrium. But then came May’s ill-advised, mismanaged General Election.
When she and the Conservatives were returned drastically weakened, the Continuity-Remain movement was reinvigorated, and its political, civil service, media, academic and judicial channels have visibly stepped up their campaigning by several levels of magnitude. They’re making the running: they look increasingly confident that Brexit really can be stopped and the Referendum reversed, and a majority-Remain Government seems at best half-hearted in response.
Now the fight is intensifying even more with the tortuous – disentangling ourselves from 40 years of Brussels control over our statute book is a complicated process – passage through Parliament of the EU Withdrawal Bill. The parties of the pro-EU Left have made clear their intention to conduct a guerilla war against it, voting against even the clause setting out its overall purpose, aided by up to 15 Unreconciled-Remainer rebels on the Tory back benches, some with considerably less honourable motivations than others.
But if some of the amendments being proposed already seem very technical and legalistic, be prepared: worse is yet to come. In this very detailed long read published on November 12 at Brexit Central, Professor David Campbell of Lancaster University sets out how the legislative process of Brexit could become almost impenetrably bogged down in the morass of a quasi-constitutional conflict between Judiciary and Parliament over which has supremacy.
It doesn’t look impossible that this could establish the supremacy of the Judiciary over that of Parliament. Just think what that would do to the prospects of Brexit happening at all. That partly explains, in my view, why such an ardent anti-Brexiteer as Labour’s Keir Starmer is so keen to maintain the jurisdiction in post-Brexit Britain of the European Court of Justice.
Professor Campbell concludes that we might need an Assertion of Parliamentary Sovereignty Act to make Brexit tamper-proof from judicial-activist usurpation of the powers of Parliament to implement the express instruction of the electorate.
If the EU Withdrawal Bill is set to have a rocky passage through Parliament, imagine how difficult it would be for a minority Government to push legislation, whose effect would be to prevent the pro-Remain Judiciary from blocking Brexit on constitutional grounds, through a marginally pro-Remain Commons and a majority pro-Remain (despite unelected) Lords.
The signs are ominous. The EU is refusing to move on to talks about a post-Brexit trade relationship unless its exorbitant financial demands are agreed. Its intransigence is being encouraged by a UK media overwhelmingly hostile to Brexit and resolved to paint it in the worst possible light. Sir Humphrey, for whom Britain’s EU membership has been axiomatic for 40 years and who thinks Brexit a monumental folly of crude populism-appeasement, is dragging his feet.
The Government is being forced by its weakness and wafer-thin, DUP-dependent, majority into unwanted concessions. It’s conceding votes in Parliament on aspects of Brexit which, given the clear instruction delivered by the Referendum result, should no longer be in play at all. In these circumstances, that it might, to win a crucial vote, concede a second Referendum, either on the terms of our exit, or even on the decision itself to leave, can’t, in my view, be ruled out.
If that comes about, the Remainers will have achieved what has been their prime objective – and also the EU’s, because it has an unsavoury record of ignoring plebiscites with unwelcome outcomes and requiring electorates to vote again and again until they come up with the ‘right’ answer.
And then what? Unlike Vote Leave and Leave-EU, the pro-Remain Open Britain campaign has never wound down, and continues to make an anti-Brexit case. Continuity-Remain could gear up for a second EU Referendum comparatively quickly. The money would come flooding in.
Its victory, though, would be far from a foregone conclusion. Since June 2016, the electorate has seen the EU moving faster towards ever-greater integration and centralisation in ways the Remainers denied were even being contemplated. It’s seen how so many of the scaremongering predictions of Project Fear failed to materialise. A second Referendum could be won for another Leave vote.
But not without a campaign organisation. Even without a second Referendum, Brexit feels to be in enough danger to justify the reconstitution of the Leave coalition, if only to continue to make the case it made so effectively in the first half of 2016, and hold the Government’s feet to the fire. The Brexit movement needs to be re-created.